Tuesday, October 4, 2011

C-SPAN2 + 1 Year: The New Civility

With Amanda Knox safe, a look back at another bit of televised drama:

This Thursday, October 6, marks the one-year anniversary of my appearance on a panel of political writers that would later be broadcast on C-SPAN2 (and still later be made virally-popular by a Mary Katharine Ham post on DailyCaller.com, leading to coverage by everyone from Washington Post to Perez Hilton, with some inaccurate reporting by NPR comedians along the way).  I’ve already said last words on the ex who I sparred with on the panel – and later on the more-serious philosophical content of the panel itself – but one last look back at the media phenomenon might be warranted, now that there’s little likelihood of setting off another firestorm. 

Would I have handled it differently if I had it to do over? 

Well, come on, it was such a masterpiece of elocution, philosophical acumen, performance art, and pure stone-cold justice that it’s pretty hard for anyone to quibble with anything about it – though perhaps I should have been far harsher, just so no one was left with the false impression that my (very mild) comments were unwarranted. 

Too, perhaps I should have gone into more far-ranging detail, so no one would be left with the false impression that my comments were purely personal and had no broader implications for (the potential near-future evolution of) philosophy and politics (and certain people engaged in both).  

But I am nothing if not merciful and tolerant (often too much so, friends tell me), so I think I struck the right balance in the time (and context) available. 

Too, I have been reaffirmed in my approach by the fact that there is an uncanny pattern of my critics (not the inattentive, anonymous bozos in random comment threads but the very, very small handful of people whose names I actually recognized) mostly turning out, though I did not know it at the time, to be adulterers, gossip-mongers, notorious loons, perverts, or liars of some sort.  The big lesson here being that (just as left-leaning novels about the Victorian era warned us) the people who act most scandalized sometimes do so because they are the ones with the most to hide (and they often know each other, too). 

I’ll keep a wary eye on them all but probably not write a book about it – I would much rather talk about things like anarchism and property rights.  And so I shall. 

Indeed, this cultural moment poised between Occupy Wall Street protesters on the left and Tea Party protesters on the right strikes me as a great example of how often in politics one has a wide range of options about how to respond to conflict despite the anxious combatants on each side, eager for marching orders, pretending that only one course of action is possible, indeed preordained (often a course that just prolongs the fighting).  People would rather fight than do the harder work of finding common themes and common ground – and then we tell ourselves combat is the braver course of action. 

Here I’m veering more into psychology than politics – but then, it’s unfortunate psychology is so often treated as a side issue.  Ad hominem – which in theory could be done without it getting ugly, since you can point out the psychological roots of someone’s thought without doing so as a prelude to combat – is assumed to be an unfair move but can be the most productive and clarifying move of all. 

As it happens, another ex of mine has a book coming out next year (her second) that looks at how psychology can influence theology, and that may be a good time to put several of the issues touched on here in perspective – with broad psychological implications made explicit – and without anybody getting angry. 

More soon, as well, on the specific case of the Occupy/Tea commonalities (a good topic not only for more-thoughtful and likely less-frequent entries on this soon-revamped-and-cleaned-up blog but also for the Brooklyn Forum discussions once I have those live events up and running, as I soon shall).  In the meantime, here are some other online items about conflict you can watch to get residual orneriness out of your system:

Alligator vs. python (alligators are such wusses compared to crocodiles that America should be embarrassed).

Heidi the famous (?) cross-eyed German possum vs. the Grim Reaper (as it happens, I just learned an associate of mine runs a Facebook page “by” The Possum from Hoarders – and maybe now wouldn’t be such a bad time to watch that “Overweight Hedgehog” music video one more time while we’re at it).

•As I mentioned last month, a scene from Babylon 5 Season 3, in which Bruce Boxleitner’s character demonstrated the proper way of dealing with the realization that your ex is now possessed by a demon: You call in a tactical nuclear strike (B5 also had some great secessionist moments with a slightly-libertarian vibe, like this speech).  Speaking of military/monster mixes, before the zombie epic World War Z hits theatres on the (highly fitting) long-dreaded date Dec. 21, 2012, someone really ought to do an interview with Max Brooks (author of the novel, and the son of Mel Brooks) entitled History of the World: Part Z.

•The “Bible Fruit” characters who appeared on Aqua Teen Hunger Force were drunken, sex-crazed, socially-dysfunctional Christians (something that never happens in real life) presumably meant as a parody of Veggie Tales.

Man vs. insect in an unintentionally-hilarious (indeed, Strong Bad-worthy) ad for the fantastically-named new Machine Head album, Unto the Locust.  (I’m not sure I could say it aloud without doing a Strong Bad impression.)

•I really don’t have too many complaints about exes or past dates, by the way – even though, in an odd pattern, I’ve basically been stood up three times over the years, always for concerts at Irving Plaza for some reason.  Are women who say “yes” to alternative rock statistically more likely to be unreliable?  (But you’d think they’d be punk-rock enough to snarl a clear-cut “No,” even if most women will go to incredible lengths to avoid that sort of clarity and almost all forms of confrontation.)  But check this out, gender warriors: the unflappable Flip Spiceland, who years ago lost a prominent cable weatherman job for joking about women not using logic, is now doing bumpers for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.  The patriarchy is everywhere.

•Lou Reed vs. Metallica (in the hip dance music sense of “vs.” which is to say, uh, “on the same side”): Herewith a thirty-second snippet from the band Lulu, composed of Metallica with vocalist Lou Reed.  The full single is out now, the album Nov. 1 – in the real world, in case that was unclear.  Speaking of sexual combat, Reed’s fascination with cruelty/love combos seems to continue in the lyrics heard here.  Lou is a scary guy.

A bit more Thursday on why this month’s the end of a few eras and the start of a new one, philosophically and culturally.  


Dave said...

Todd, the CSpan clip was the butterfly wing flap that lead to the hurricane that made me realign my ideological and political standpoint. If nothing else, I probably wouldn't have watched the whole panel and subsequently read the book if your comments hadn't caused such a stir - If Jonah Goldberg holds it against you, you can tell him that at least one copy was sold because of it. Not only that, I now regularly read NRonline and bought a print subscription for my Dad. So for what that's worth, thank you!

Todd Seavey said...

No problem. Maybe I can mention that to Jonah when I see him and other conservative writers in DC in a couple weeks. I can honestly say -- as a good utilitarian always should -- that I want everyone involved to be happy. And you, sir, are a wonderful added bonus.